DEAR DR. MICHELLE,
I heard that Eli Lilly has a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Is this true?
It is, indeed, an exciting time in Alzheimer’s research! On May 3, 2023, Lilly released to the press that their drug donanemab was effective in slowing decline in treated patients. Their phase 3 study showed significant differences between treatment and placebo groups on all measures, including thinking and daily living skills as well as removing amyloid plaque from the brain. This announcement comes close behind the FDA’s approval of two other drugs in the same class of medications.
Donanemab is in the group of medications known as the monoclonal antibodies: drugs that help clear and prevent build-up in the brain of a protein called amyloid. Studies of different monoclonal antibody treatments all show that the earlier in the plaque-tangle formation process (i.e., underlying hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease) treatment is given, the better chance the treatment has at being effective. This is why clinical trials for Alzheimer’s have a large focus on early stages and also why early and accurate diagnosis is so important.
Donanemab is not yet approved by the FDA. One way to access it is by participating in a clinical trial. The Trailblazer-Alz-6 study is testing different dosing regiments of donanemab and is still currently enrolling. The screening window for this study is expected to close within a few weeks, so those interested should act quickly. To learn more about this opportunity and other clinical trials, including those that may provide access to Aduhelm and Leqembi, go to Clinicaltrials.gov.
We have entered a new era of Alzheimer’s treatment. Each breakthrough is a milestone. As we celebrate our successes, we prepare for the work ahead. I encourage everyone to participate in this journey because we will all be affected by Alzheimer’s by some degree (or not) of separation. To borrow the slogan of the Alzheimer’s Association: don’t just hope for a cure, help us find one. And we are, indeed, that much closer.
*Michelle Papka, Ph.D. is the Founder of The Cognitive and Research Center of New Jersey (The CRCNJ) in Springfield, NJ. The mission of The CRCNJ is to provide no-cost diagnostic, treatment and supportive resources through clinical research opportunities to people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders.